Bournemouth tourist attractions

Top Bournemouth sights

Located on the south coast of England, Bournemouth has long been popular with holiday-makers, thanks to its wide stretch of beach, Victorian entertainment pier and an interesting collection of historic houses, museums and galleries. Aside from the impressive churches, houses and other tourist attractions, it boasts a fascinating ecological and geological history, which can be best appreciated at Hengistbury Head. And if you want to inject a splash of luxury, you won’t be disappointed at Sandbanks, where some of the country’s most expensive properties can be found – and celebrities.

  1. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery
  2. Highcliffe Castle
  3. Boscombe Chine Gardens
  4. Bournemouth Pier
  5. Hengistbury Head
  6. Oceanarium
  7. Sandbanks

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery is a historic house that contains a worldly variety of art. It was the former home of two Victorian art collectors who were also keen travellers, hence the diverse collection of souvenirs from Russia, New Zealand, Japan and more. Once you’ve taken in the galleries and splendour of the house, step outside for a stroll through the gardens, which feature an original Victorian stone grotto and fountain, and Japanese fish ponds and bridges.

Best for: Victorian Bournemouth.

While you’re there: Located on Dorset’s East Cliff Promenade, there’s excellent views to be had from the garden’s clifftop position.

2. Highcliffe Castle

The stunning Highcliffe Castle is a brilliant excursion from Bournemouth well worth taking, where you can while away a couple of hours or so exploring this Grade I-listed building. It’s a grandiose sight to behold from the outside, but as soon as you step inside and start exploring the different rooms, you’ll really piece together the story of the place. Take in the majestic Great Hall, marvel at the two libraries, choose your next step in the Octagon Room and browse the 19th-century-restored kitchen. There’s also plenty for kids to get involved in, too, whether it’s dressing up and laying the table in the interactive games sections, or simply running around in the sprawling gardens outside.

Best for: Excursions

While you’re there: Surrounded by 14 acres of land, why not stroll around the manicured lawns, or head out on a woodland walk?

3. Boscombe Chine Gardens

While it’s had a modern upgrade, Boscombe Chine Gardens retains some of the resort structures from when it first opened in the 19th century. This makes for a fun afternoon visit, where all ages can enjoy the mini-golf course and kids can splash about in the water play area. Better still, it’s set in a quaint setting with colourful flowerbeds and two spa shelters. Looking for cheap holidays to Bournemouth? Base yourself in the city centre and you can reach most of the top attractions by foot.

Best for: Afternoon fun.

While you’re there: Afterwards, stop off at the Clock Cafe, at the upper end of the chine.

4. Bournemouth Pier

One of the top Bournemouth tourist attractions is its very own pier, which juts out from the equally popular sandy beach and offers great views of the waters ahead. It’s probably more fun than you’d expect from a Victorian pier, offering modern additions including ziplining over the pier back to shore, caving tunnels, vertical drop slides and a highline obstacle course. In fact, with so many fun activities on offer here, make sure you remember to walk to the end of the pier to take in the views!

Best for: Adrenaline rushes.

While you’re there: Climb the spiral staircase at the end of the pier for high-top views over the sea and looking back over the beach.

5. Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is a nature reserve where you can discover the rich flora and fauna that still thrive here, along with archaeological history spanning thousands of years. Start off at the Visitor Centre, where you can pick up some handy maps and see what paths you might like to take, as well as interactive exhibitions about the ecological and geological build-up of Bournemouth from the Stone Age. When you’re ready, head off on your walk to explore the grassland, freshwater wetland and heathland beauty of Bournemouth.

Best for: Embracing the great outdoors.

While you’re there: You can give watersports a go – who’s up for kayaking?

6. Oceanarium

The Oceanarium is one of the top Bournemouth attractions, thanks to its two floors of exhibits of the water kingdom. Some displays are separated by region (Asia, Africa, Amazon, Key West) and others include Crocodile Rocks, Shark Wreck Reef, Global Meltdown and an Otter Oasis. The largest is the Penguin Beach Encounter which spreads over both floors; on the upper floor, there’s also an informative marine research laboratory where you can find out more about the marine ecosystems.

Best for: Rainy day activities.

While you’re there: Just ahead of the Oceanarium is the beach and pier.

7. Sandbanks

Looking for some celebrity Bournemouth sightseeing? Head west to lucrative Sandbanks, home to some of the most expensive property prices in the country. Enjoy a barbecue on the beach, stroll past the Royal Motor Yacht Club and blow off some steam at the Crazy Golf, all while keeping an eye out Harry Redknapp – or simply be wowed by the impressive houses here.

Best for: Ultra-snazzy houses, and maybe the odd retired professional footballer.

While you’re there: Splash the cash at the slick Rick Stein seafood restaurant.

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